Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed reiterated his position on the Riverside Campground and Spa rezoning application this week, following what he called a misrepresentation in the last edition of Pique of his comments expressed at the April 21 public hearing and council meeting.
The mayor said council has always supported the Riverside rezoning and understands that the campground faces a demand for more capacity and diverse camping.
“We acknowledge that Riverside is doing a fantastic job,” said Melamed.
“The submissions that came at the public hearing were a reflection of everybody’s assessment of the value that the business brings to Whistler.”
The mayor said that the proposed spa has also been discussed with the business community, through Tourism Whistler and One Whistler, and council now feels it will be an amenity to the community.
“What still needs to be resolved, and what was reflected in the two subjects that council placed on the third reading, are the issues of the resident housing attributable to the Scandinave Spa and the amount and location of the camping,” said the mayor.
He added that his comments at the public hearing — quoted in last week’s paper as “It is disappointing that nobody came (to speak against the proposal) but their absence is not an indication of that” — were actually in regard to disappointment that no one at the public hearing spoke in favour of maintaining a number of tenting campsites.
“We know how difficult it was to create this one campground within Whistler and how difficult it might be to have to create another one,” he said.
“Rather than have to accommodate campsites that are peripheral to the resort, it is advantageous to maintain them within the resort.”
Following last week’s public hearing, third reading of the rezoning application was unanimously approved with two conditions attached: that proponents clarify where the spa employees will be housed and clarify the location and number of tenting campsites.
This week, Melamed also stressed that while he was previously adamant that there be no camping on the flood plain out of concern for the environment, he suggested at the council meeting that he was prepared to compromise. Following this, municipal staff said that the location of campsites was a public safety issue and camping cannot occur on that flood plain.
“That means that staff will go and work out a solution with the proponent so we can obtained an increased number of campsites. That was really the direction that council gave,” said Melamed.
Also, in response to accusations at the public hearing suggesting that council is sending a negative message and Whistler being a difficult place to obtain rezoning, the mayor said: “This council has approved a number of developments since coming into office. It has showed a willingness to work with community partners and investors, and it is our responsibility to do the appropriate due diligence on all of the applications that come before us so that they conform with our policies and they meet the descriptions of success for the resort.
“Very clearly council’s intention was to move the process forward and yet there was a need, agreed by council, that there were outstanding issues, and we will continue to work through those issues and get a positive resolution.”